[Editor’s note: The review unit has been returned to Elgato Gaming for analysis. The replacement we were given is working flawlessly, with no screen burn-in whatsoever.]
It looks like every other player is streaming these days, including me. Presenting gameplay and commentary to a live audience causes a certain thrill and really enhances the enjoyment of the medium.
Current generation gaming platforms have also embraced streaming, making it easy to press a few buttons and start streaming. The PS4, for example, has its own “share button”, which allows players to start streaming in seconds.
All of this is fantastic for casual streaming, and for many it’s enough. However, for those looking to take things to the next level, with much higher production values, things can quickly get more complicated. With potentially multiple scenes to switch between, sources to turn on and off, graphics, sound effects, and notifications, it can all get a bit too much. And when you’re trying to play a game, while still entertaining an audience, you don’t want a mess of distractions weighing you down.
This is where Elgato Gaming came in, to enable high production values without sacrificing the real pleasure of streaming. The Stream Deck aims to save the day with a powerful feature set contained in a small form factor.
Small, but mighty
The main attraction here is the 15 LCD keys, which can each be designated as a custom function and image, or turned into a folder, allowing up to 210 actions to be assigned in total. It is also possible that Elgato may add nested folders in the future, which means even more room for additional functions!
What sets the Stream Deck apart from the competition is its direct API integration with a number of popular streaming programs. This essentially means that it can talk to applications and give them specific instructions even when they are not focused. A simple example of this is if you want to send a pre-written tweet. Maybe you want to alert your audience to the start of your broadcast in 10 minutes. Well, just assign that function to a key, press it, and it’s the written and sent tweet. You even get visual feedback with every key you activate. Streamers no longer wonder if everything worked out as expected!
This functionality is applied to other programs like OBS and Elgato’s own Game Capture software. I love the latter and programmed my Stream Deck to make both capturing and streaming easy. Direct integration with Twitch and TipeeeStream should also appeal to streamers, and I’ve heard that support for XSplit is “reviewed”.
The Stream Deck can also be assigned websites or programs to open, or linked with various keyboard shortcuts. My frequent apps, websites, and games are all set up with their own images, which means all I need is just the push of a button. The different recording methods I use take up the majority of my middle row, each using different keyboard shortcuts. For my content creation needs, which are largely met by Adobe Premiere and Photoshop, I have resource folders available, along with keyboard shortcuts for each program. So while this device is primarily aimed at streamers, it can absolutely help make workflows more efficient or speed up general PC usage.
What’s great is that this feature is just the start, with Elgato working to develop the software and add more programs over time.
Speaking of the software and how you customize the interface, it’s a snap. Start-up takes you to a digital representation of the 15 LCD keys, the functions of which can be assigned with a simple drag and drop. If you type and hold an action on a key, it will turn it into a folder. Clicking on the icon image will allow you to add a custom graphic, which you can create using Elgato’s own web tool, a program like Photoshop or GIMP, or you can simply grab them from there. ‘Google images. Text can also be added to each key, if you need it to stand out a bit more.
The setup menu is pretty straightforward, with a brightness slider, update checker, account management page, and an area where you can reset, import, or export your layouts. Everything is very easy.
A few hiccups
As for my list of negatives, I really only had one major issue. This is the screen burn-in that I noticed on a few keys. Sometimes text may remain even if it has been deleted. I told Elgato Gaming about it, and apparently they haven’t seen it before. Despite testing hundreds of units for hundreds of hours, my exam sample is the only one with this problem. Fortunately, the text seems to have faded somewhat over the past few days and is only noticeable if you look closely.
As for other downsides, there isn’t much to cover. The Game Capture application displayed an error several times, accidentally selecting the same scene, but it does not actually close the software. It’s a minor annoyance that I’m sure will be ironed out in a patch.
Another thing I would have liked to see is a detachable cable, or at the very least it could be a bit longer. Oh, and for those wondering about operating system compatibility, you’ll need Windows 10 or macOS 10.11 and later.
Is it worth it?
Some might expect me to talk about the $ 149.95 price tag, which I admit sounded high when I first heard about it. However, after looking at the competition and taking into account API integration and the ability to create Stream Deck folders, as well as the overall ease of use, the price seems justified for someone like me with a configuration to one PC and two monitors.
Maybe the problem is, cosmetically, it doesn’t look so substantial or impressive. And I agree that the subtle design does little to hint at the power within. This little guy packs a punch and is a worthy buy for any streamer looking to up the quality of their production, without distracting from what’s important: enjoying the games and entertaining the audience.
The Stream Deck offers a lot of convenience for that $ 150 price point, and if you’ve gone beyond using the built-in PS4 app, to stream and maybe play on a PC or Mac as well, I would suggest to you. recommends keeping the Elgato Stream Deck when it launches on May 15, 2017.
The Stream Deck review unit was provided to PlayStation LifeStyle by Elgato Gaming. For more information, please see our revision policy here.
You can find out more about the Stream Deck by watching our 60 Seconds feature or by visiting the Elgato Gaming website here.